With the Artemis mission in full motion, NASA plans to return to the Moon in less than five years. A permanent base on the Moon would be a great boon for the space agency, but there are several factors that need to be taken into account.
One of the major ones is the presence of lethal space radiation, which could harm astronauts in the long run. Extensive and powerful anti-radiation shields are needed if humanity wishes to spend more time on the Moon or venture into other places across the solar system, including the Red Planet.
The astronauts on the International Space Station, which have received several improvements to shields since it was launched, received 20 times the normal amount of radiation that reaches humans who live on Earth, and as the distance from Earth grows, the radiation becomes more intense.
Novel shielding methods are being explored by scientists, and one of the most interesting ones is an organism that has been identified in Chernobyl. The organism is a type of mold that can absorb impressive amounts of radiation while also being able to self-heal and self-replicate.
A new study explores the potential of this mold, which could be used for deep-space missions. During the study, the fungi have been placed on the ISS for a month. Fungi can contain melanin, a pigment that absorbs radiation and can convert it into energy.
The experiment tracked the radiation level encountered by the fungi via measurements that were taken every 110 seconds. The study revealed that the fungi were able to adapt to micro-gravity quickly and thrived while also reducing the level of upcoming radiation by 2%, which is impressive for the amount of mold that could grow in a petri dish.
With a few modifications, the fungi could be used to shield future bases on the Moon and Mars.